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Murray: Shopping for a wine lover? Think locally

POSTED: December 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.
/For The Times

Habersham Vineyards & Winery offer this Christmas label for an additional $2.

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Ho ho ho, and all that seasonal stuff. It's coming up on that cheery time of the year, and wine lovers should be completing their lists for Santa to fill.

There's all the usual stuff; nice bottles of wine, good corkscrews, subscriptions to wine magazines, gift cards, etc. But this year, why not "think local"?

Around this neck of the woods, we're blessed with a number of local and regional wineries that produce some pretty good juice. They range from sophisticated, upscale resorts to down-home, family-run operations. They all are more than happy to sell you a bottle or a case of wine, and many have gift shops where you can buy wine-related presents.

And this year remember - you can order wine over the Internet.

Whatever the scale, you will discover some interesting and unique gifts available at Northeast Georgia's wine producers.

While writing and teaching about wine, I've learned one thing (well, maybe more than one): Folks involved in growing and making wine are almost universally genuine, friendly, sharing and modest. From the heights of the Antinori and Mondavi families down to the hard-working "cellar rats," I've found that wine people are good people.

I'm a firm believer in supporting local businesses, whether groceries or wineries. So for the wino in your life, check out the following gift list, which I put together with input from the folks who run the wineries that dot the Northeast Georgia hills. There just might be that perfect gift you've been looking for all year.

Good luck. And may these coming holidays bring blessings and happiness to you and your loved ones.

P.S.: You might want to clip this listing of our wineries and attach it to your fridge. It offers all the information you need to contact and find them when you want to pay a visit later on.

Blackstock Vineyards and Winery

  • Where: 5400 Town Creek Road, Dahlonega
  • When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
  • Contact: 706-219-2789

David Harris, who established his reputation growing high-quality wine grapes for other producers, has for the past few years put his own label on a number of award-winning wines. Looking toward the holiday season, and the chill of winter, he offers Blackstock's unique Touriga Dulce. It's produced from the primary grape used in the production of Port wines in Portugal. And like Port, the Touriga Dulce is a sweet, rich after-dinner wine guaranteed to keep you warm in front of a winter fire. A 750 ml (standard size) bottle is priced at $22.99.

Chateau Elan Resort and Winery

  • Where: Exit 126 from Interstate-85, Braselton
  • When: Contact winery for hours
  • Contact: 678-425-0900

Larry Mayran, corporate director of communications for this resort, golf course and winery, happily offers an "Epicurean Escape" for your favorite wino. Choose packages from an interactive afternoon with Chateau Elan chefs in the culinary studio, a spa massage, men's luxury facial or the Chateau Romantic Retreat. That retreat features a deluxe overnight room at the inn for two nights with breakfast, one lunch, one dinner and a bottle of Chateau Elan wine delivered to your room. Contact Chateau Elan for price specifications and reservations.

Frogtown Cellars

  • Where: 700 Ridge Point Drive, Dahlonega
  • When: Noon-5 p.m. Monday-Fridays, noon-6 p.m. Saturdays, 12:30-5 p.m. Sundays
  • Contact: 706-865-0687

Cydney Kritzer, one of the top frogs at Frogtown Cellars, offers a gift pack of six 19.5-ounce wine glasses prewrapped for $42 and a bottle of Frogtown's latest sauvignon blanc, which will, says Cydney, "knock your socks off." Wow! Pay $17.99 and get a great wine - and your socks removed. She asks anyone interested to order by e-mail at cydney@frogtownwine.com, or by phone. Ask about the Wine Taster Brunches and Dinners, as well. Gift certificates fill up the fireside stockings nicely.

Habersham Vineyards & Winery

  • Where: 7025 S. Main St., Helen
  • When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturdays, 12:30-6 p.m. Sundays
  • Contact: info@habershamwinery.com, 770-983-1973

Habersham is one of the largest wineries in Northeast Georgia. Its tasting room in Nacoochee Village is large and friendly, with a gift shop crammed with wine-oriented goodies. Steve Gibson, Habersham's general manager, says the winery helps its friends celebrate Christmas with seasonal wine labels. Habersham offers a number of labels for the price of the wine plus an additional $2 charge for each label. Habersham also will produce personalized labels with a graphic and message for a setup charge of $25, plus the $2 per label.

Montaluce Winery & Estates

  • Where: 501 Hightower Church Road, Dahlonega
  • When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Fridays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; tours available by reservation
  • Contact: 706-867-4060

Montaluce is one of the newest winery operations in Northeast Georgia and it appears to be unique. The winery is only one portion of the overall development that includes a top-flight restaurant, Le Vigne, and a residential community in the Tuscan-Napa style. Montaluce is not yet producing wine; the vineyards were planted just this spring. While Montaluce did not respond to requests for a gift suggestion, they are selling about 50 bottles of wine produced throughout Italy.

Three Sisters Vineyards

  • Where: 240 Vineyard Way, Dahlonega
  • When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. Sundays and weekdays, by appointment
  • Contact: 706-865-9463

Doug and Sharon Paul founded Three Sisters Vineyards in 1996, named for the three mountains seen from the property. It is a family agribusiness operation, with Doug emphasizing that the operation is all about farming. They grow all their own grapes, including vinifera and French-American hybrids.

For a singular holiday gift, Doug suggests the award-winning Dahlonega Gold, a late-harvest dessert wine made from 100 percent frozen vidal grapes. It is a luscious way to end a meal - and it's produced in very small numbers, fewer than 100 cases annually. Dahlonega Gold is priced at $30 for a 375 ml (half) bottle.

Tiger Mountain Vineyards

  • Where: 2592 Old Highway 441, Tiger
  • When: 1-5 p.m. Fridays and Sundays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays through December; other times by appointment. Tastings are free and open to the public.
  • Contact: tigerwine@alltel.net, 706-782-4777

Martha Ezzard, co-owner of Tiger Mountain with husband John, suggests the winery's gift box. It's a classy embossed wooden box that can hold three, four or six bottles of wine - and you get to pick the wines. Each box itself costs $25, and Tiger Mountain wines range from $15-$35 per bottle. The winery gives a 20 percent discount to folks who purchase at least two cases of wine per year at the winery.

Ezzard invites you to Tiger Mountain's annual Soup and Shopping from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 13. Make sure you try the hot mulled wine.

Wolf Mountain Vineyards

  • Where: 180 Wolf Mountain Trail, Dahlonega
  • When: Noon-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturdays, 12:30-5 p.m. Sundays, noon-5 p.m. Mondays; contact the winery for information on Sunday brunches and lunches
  • Contact: wolfmountainvineyards@yahoo.com, 706-867-9862

Wolf Mountain looks like a Napa Valley winery. Clutching a hillside north of Dahlonega, the winery offers a magnificent view of the valley and forests. And the wines have set a high standard; blended wines made in a low-tech, hands-on winery in the French style. Lindsey Smith at Wolf Mountain recommends A Wine for Each Season as a gift. This is a four-pack of seasonally oriented wines served up with information about each wine in a ribbon-tied box for $85.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month.



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